On his 17th birthday, Thunder discovers his parents aren’t really his parents at all – in fact they’re not even real people but automatons tasked with his care by his true father – the mad, time-traveling geneticist, Dr. M. T. Hart. And he’s not the heartless Dr. Hart’s only child – he also has "siblings". A family of hollow gods with incredible yet flawed powers created by Hart from a genetic jumble of geniuses, mystics, and saints from the past.
In his mad desire to create the perfect being, Hart throws his creations into The Sequencing. Lose the game and you may be wiped clean – stripped of your powers and your mind. Or worse, decommissioned and your genetic material recycled for the next batch of hollow gods. Win the game and you get to keep your powers, keep your mind (maybe), and keep playing.
For the current Sequencing, the contestants need to use their unique abilities to track down a modern Jack the Ripper in London. While his competition has amazing powers, Thunder seems armed only with his wits. Will that be enough for him to survive The Sequencing? Does he even want to win knowing that doing so could mean the end of the others and their unique gifts?
Plot: Reader will dive directly into the story and the short timeframe of the game is a good hook that also keeps the plot moving at a clipped pace. Genetically engineered humans, time travel, dinosaurs, Jack the Ripper (and more) are all enticing plot elements, but collectively may be a lot for readers to take in. The cliffhanger ending sets of the next installment well, but does take away a bit of closure for this episode.
Prose/Style: The writing is clear and direct. Thunder's first-person narrative is effective in bringing the reader into the story, though a couple of diversions into the third person are slightly jarring (even if structurally logical). The rich history of the London setting is used to advantage, but sometimes the provision of historical details can slow down the story.
Originality: A modern-day Jack the Ripper, the legacy of Nicola Tesla and other features are familiar plot elements, but the combination is unusual, creating a contemporary story that has both futuristic and steampunk facets.
Character Development: Plot is clearly a stronger focus here, but more deeply drawn characters could help readers connect to the story. Main character Thunder is a bit idealized, and we don't get a lot of insight on his thoughts and feelings, keeping him at some distance from readers. Also, the teens' acceptance of their nicknames, apparently chosen by Mr. Hart, seems a bit passive and reduces their identities largely to their "powers."
Date Submitted: August 14, 2019